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Muzzle – Flash Fiction Thriller

Happy Halloween!

Here’s a thrilling read to mark the holiday. Originally published in Havok Publishing, I just noticed that the rights reverted to me and I can share it here. Woohoo!

So, if you’re in the mood of something scary…

An end-of-a-hot-day smell lingers in the air, and the scattered clouds turn gold as I set off from my apartment. Easy route for my first run through the neighborhood in too long. The August weather is nice, and I revel in the familiar rhythm of feet pounding pavement.

I pass Mrs. Lindsay cleaning up her gardening tools, though she has an hour of light left.

“Hey, Mrs. Lindsay!” I wave.

“Hello, Monica. Nice to see you again. It’s been too long!”

I laugh. “Going inside already?”

“Oh, it’s not a good idea to be out at night,” she answers with a shiver.

I run on under a beautiful sunset.

The park. Sprinklers shick-shick-shick into stillness, temptingly cool. I stop to drink from my bottle, my legs quivering. It has been far too long.

Two streets over, I spot something that almost ruins my night—a dog chained up in a large yard. Not cool.

It’s big, maybe a husky or German Shepherd mix. The kind of dog that scares people, usually with no reason. Its head rests on its paws. It tenses, gives a little growl.

No owner in sight. I don’t approach, since that wouldn’t be proper dog etiquette, but I do stop and speak to it. “Hey, boy. It’s okay. I’m a friend. You doing okay? Got water and everything?”

He rises, advances to the end of the short chain. I don’t think it’s a threatening move, even when he growls again. Just telling me where his space is and that I should respect it. So, I respect it, staying a moment longer, letting him get used to me. Then I run on.

But I’m troubled. I don’t like it when a dog is kept on a short chain.

Second day, it’s bugging me. I take the same route in reverse.

I get a late start, and I’d be stupid to be out after dark, so I make it a shorter run. Not even around the school since I’m still achy from yesterday.

The chained-up dog is out again. Alert, sniffing the wind. He spots me quickly, like he’s been watching for me, and strains to get closer. I keep my distance, but he seems more accepting. At least, he doesn’t growl today.

“I’ve checked,” I tell him. “There’s no rule in this city against chaining up a dog. I’ve made a complaint, but they say there’s nothing they can do. It’s still cruel. I’m sorry.”

He tugs toward me, links clinking, snuffing, crouching his massive head between powerful shoulders.

I go up to the door. No answer, so I tuck the form protest letter I printed from the RSPCA website into the handle.

“I’ll be back tomorrow!” I assure him, then run on.

A few driveways down, a guy works on his car. I ask him my question.

“That’s Mr. Howell’s house,” he answers. “Haven’t seen him around lately, though. He never used to have a dog. I’ve been wondering about it.”

The name sounds familiar.

At the park, the sprinklers have been off for a while, but I still stop when the Ortega kids come over to say hi. I make small talk, trying to distract myself. How’ve they been? How’s school? Why isn’t their Frenchie with them?

“He ran away,” says four-year-old Mindy. “Probably the werewolf ate him.”

I laugh sympathetically. “You mean the coyotes, right?”

“Yeah,” six-year-old Jaxson agrees, but he seems timid. “The coyotes.”

Day three. I’ve made up my mind.

I must do something, and a friend has space to take in abused dogs.

If I could have a dog, I would. Everyone else fades from your life, but your dog will always come through. And they don’t ask anything in return but food and love. Chain them up, and you’ve betrayed that.

I can see by the twilight and the rising full moon that the dog is muzzled now.

He jumps up and stalks toward me to the extent of his six-foot chain.

I near, extending a hand for him to sniff. He lets me pet his head.

“What’ve they done to you?” I feel for the buckles securing the muzzle, pull it off. Strange snout. “What kind of dog are you, anyway? Never mind. I’m sure you never did anything to deserve this. I’ll get you out and then talk to your owner later.”

I drop a treat for him, sure he trusts me now. No snapping. His ruff’s down. He breathes heavily as I detach the chain.

The collar is cold under my fingers. Tarnished metal. Wait… Is it silver? Why put a silver collar on a dog you’re going to chain up outside?

It seems to irritate the dog. He scratches at it. An allergy, probably.

“C’mere.” I slip on the spare collar I brought along and then tug until, finally, the silver one comes off.

He snarls, and I fall backward.

Then he changes. The canine slips away. For an instant, it’s a man.

A man I recognize.

Mr. Howell.

“Why—did you—unchain me?” he gasps.

The gasps change back to a snarl, then a howl, as he returns to canine shape.

Not a dog. A wolf.

A werewolf.

I scramble to my feet and run as I have never run before.


Published by abigailfalanga

Author of sci-fi, fantasy, and everything in between. Probably a fairy.

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